Igbo Presidency, PDP Primaries And The Future Of Zoning By Osita Chidoka

Former minister for Aviation, Osita Chidoka

No other group did damage to the idea of zoning than the 80 out of 95 Igbo delegates to the last PDP convention who cast their votes against Igbo aspirants. The 80 delegates and their sponsors, in a tragic display of lack of group consciousness and primacy of personal interest, sent the country a clear and loud message: zoning is not an issue dear to Ndi Igbo. Our delegates told the country that a President from the Southeast is not a priority and not an issue of justice and fairness. The country has heard us.

Two years ago I approached Gov. Peter Obi, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, Sen Pius Anyim and spoke on the phone with Gov.Umahi with a single message – run for Presidency. Gov. Peter Obi at two meetings told me he would not like to run against Atiku Abubakar and will consider a run if the party zoned the presidency to the Southeast. Sen Ekweremadu expressed his preference for the Governorship of Enugu State. Sen Anyim said he was watching the terrain and will feed me back. Gov. Umahi was non-committal. I continued the engagement, as I believe that these men had sufficient name recognition and networks that will aid a competitive run.

As time progressed, I started the campaign on zoning calling on the country to respect a national agreement and convention. The campaign gathered steam as I traversed TV stations, online media and radio stations pushing the logic and rationale for zoning. I was a member of the PDP zoning committee for Party Offices and used the platform to argue strongly for zoning the Chairmanship to the North. We achieved it.

After the zoning of the Chairmanship to the North, Sen Anyim contacted me and confirmed that he would run. I was happy and we went to work, I provided advice, went with him to solicit the support of some key stakeholders and joined him to submit his form at the PDP. When I read online that Gov. Peter Obi had declared, I reached out to him and provided him with some data about his standing across the regions from an opinion poll. I kept reaching out to him. I encouraged Sen. Anyim to convene the meeting of Igbo Aspirants to create a platform that will ultimately help produce a consensus Igbo candidate.

I discussed with My senior friend Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who I had and still have a great relationship and explained to him that I would not support his quest for Presidency at the Primary stage as I believe that it is the turn of Igbos to produce the President. We argued a bit and he told me he understood my position and wish me well in my campaign. I explained the same to Gov. Aminu Tambuwal who is a brother and friend and to Sen Bukola Saraki who I admire for his intellect and urbane disposition and worked closely with during the 2019 elections.

Throughout the Primary campaigns, I did not visit or attend any campaign event of Atiku, Saraki or Tambuwal save for when they came to speak to the Former Ministers Forum. On principle and at personal pain, I stayed away from people who had continually shown me friendship because I believe that our nation must be built on foundations of justice and equity.

Two nights before the Primaries I was invited to an Online meeting of select Igbo leaders and I passionately pleaded with them to endorse Sen. Anyim or Sam Ohuabunwa and make it public while reaching out to the Igbo PDP Governors/delegates to vote in one direction as a message to the country that we are serious about zoning and fairness.

Vice President Atiku scored 371 votes which is three times more than the Northeast votes at 112 votes and more than 298 the combined votes of the Northeast and Northwest. Gov. Wike scored 237 which was almost twice the vote from the South-South. Saraki’s 70 votes indicate a strength beyond Kwara state same for Gov. Udom’s 38 votes.

Sen Anyim got 14 votes 13 came from Ebonyi and Sam Ohuabunwa got 1 vote. 15 votes from 95 delegates? Our zone had no strategic interest? No strategic objective? I feel bad. I feel humiliated not against Nigeria but against a group that could not come together in a rare moment of group consciousness to make a statement. Sad.

Obviously, nobody in the country thought the Igbo quest for Presidency was serious by the voting pattern at the convention. Our candidates could not win a vote from outside of Igboland. Last year when I lamented about the absence of a show of strength by Igbo presidential aspirants at the PDP convention, many took offence. When I said that the three most influential politicians in Nigeria were Goodluck Jonathan, Yemi Osinbajo and Atiku Abubakar many Igbos quarrelled.

An Igbo or indeed any Nigerian can only be President in Nigeria through a national platform like PDP or APC. In a multi-party election, we will end up like NCNC or NPP. President Buhari learnt that lesson and built a national coalition in 2015. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mallam Aminu Kano, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim all experienced it and tried to form a Progressive Alliance.

NPN, a national platform delivered a largely unknown Alhaji Shehu Shagari. A national platform SDP delivered Chief MKO Abiola. PDP, a national platform delivered Chief Obasanjo with no home support and also a Goodluck Jonathan from the smallest state in Nigeria. No politician will be elected President in Nigeria without a national platform.

From the ashes of the painful PDP outing, we need to rise and re-engage the country more positively while focusing on electing credible and vocal Igbo Governors in 2023. The lack of leadership in Igboland is disturbing and could lead to grave consequences in our homeland.

To the country, I ask that this is not a moment of triumphalism. An emasculated Igbo political elite is a recipe for continued growth of anti-nationalist and nativist politics amongst young Igbos, who view the political class as treacherous and devoid of redeeming features. PDP should clearly state its zoning arrangement for subsequent elections, and stick to it.

As for the APC, I pray they will find one of our Igbo sons worthy of their nomination. The country needs to confront its demons. The Igbos need to stop sending mixed signals to the country.

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